Interview with Lenin

Jj Plant jplant at
Mon May 6 22:02:00 MDT 1996

On Saturday 4 May 1996 The Guardian (a well known UK newspaper)
celebrated 175
of years of publication. In the course of this celebration, it reprinted
a full page from its
October 21 1919 issue (when it operated under its former name "The
Guardian"), including the following interview with Lenin.






The interview with Lenin had been a matter of some difficulty to arrange;
not because
he is unapproachable - he goes about with as little external trappings or
precautions as
myself - but because his time is so precious. He, even more than the
other Commissaries,
is continuously at work. But at last I had secured a free moment and
drove from my
room, across the city, to one of the gates of the Kremlin. I had taken
the precaution at
the beginning of my stay to secure a pass that set me free from any
possible molestation
>from officials or police, and this gave me admission to the Kremlin
enclosure. Entrance
to the Kremlin is naturally guarded; it is the seat of the Executive
Government; but the
formalities are no more than have to be observed at Buckingham Palace or
the House
of Commons. A small wooden office beyond the bridge, where a civilian
grants passes,
and a few soldiers, ordinary Russian soldiers, one of whom receives and
verifies the pass,
were all there was to be seen at this entrance. It is always said that
Lenin is guarded by
Chinese. There were no Chinese here.

I entered, mounted the hill, and drove across to the building where Lenin
lives, in the
direction of the large platform where formerly stood the Alexander
statue, now removed.
At the foot of the staircase were two more soldiers, Russian youths, but
still no Chinese.
I went up by a lift to the top floor, where I found two other young
Russian soldiers, but
no Chinese, nor in any of the three visits which I paid to the Kremlin
did I see any.

I hung up my hat and coat in the ante-chamber, passed through a room in
which clerks
were at work, and entered the room in which the Executive Committee of
the Council
of People's Commissaries holds its meetings - in other words, the Council
Chamber of
the Cabinet of the Soviet Republic. I had kept my appointment strictly to
time, and my
companion passed on (rooms in Russia are always en suite) to let Lenin
know that I had
arrived. I then followed into the room in which Lenin works and waited a
minute for his
coming. Here let me say that there is no magnificence about this suite of
rooms. They
are well and solidly furnished; the Council Chamber is admirably arranged
for its
purpose, but everything is simple, and there is an atmosphere of hard
work about
everything. Of the meretricious splendour I had heard so much there is
not a trace.


I had but the time to make these observations, mentally, when Lenin
entered the room.
He is a man of middle height, about fifty years old, active, and well
proportioned. His
features, at first sight, seem to have a slight Chinese cast, and his
hair and pointed beard
have a ruddy brown tinge. The head is well domed, and his brow broad and
well raised.
He has a pleasant expression in talking, and indeed his manner can be
described as
distinctly prepossessing. He speaks clearly in a well modulated voice,
and throughout the
interview he never hesitated or betrayed the slightest confusion. Indeed,
the one clearly
cut impression he left on one was that here was a clear, cold brain, a
man absolutely
master of himself and of his subject, expressing himself with a lucidity
that was as
startling as it was refreshing.

My companion had seated himself on the other side of the table to act as
interpreter in
case of need; he was not wanted. After a word of introduction I asked
what I should
speak, French or German. He replied that if I did not object he would
prefer to speak
in English, and that if I would only speak clearly and slowly he would be
able to follow
everything. I agreed, and he was as good as his word, for only once
during the three-
quarters of an hour that the meeting lasted did he stumble at a word, and
then only for
an instant; he had seized me meaning almost immediately.

The Questions.

I ought to state here that the thought of the interview had engaged me
>from the moment
I had entered Russia. There were so many things I wanted to know, scores
of questions
occurred to me, and to secure the answers I longed to have would have
required a
discursive talk of hours had I begun my task with this interview. But by
leaving it to the
last my month's work had brought the answer to many of the questions, and
others had
been settled by the radiographic interview submitted from Lyons by a
combination of
American journalists.  It behoved me therefore to utilise to the best
advantage the time
rigidly apportioned to me, wedged in between two important meetings. I
had therefore
reduced all my curiosity to three questions, to which the authoritative
answers could be
given only by Lenin himself, the head of the Government of the Soviet
Republic. He
knew quite well who I was; he did not know what I wanted. There could
therefore be no
question of preparation as far as he was concerned.

I had spoken of my questions to only one man, the commissary who
accompanied me,
and he became very depressed and gave it as his opinion that Lenin would
not answer
them. To his unfeigned astonishment, the questions were answered
promptly, simply and
decisively, and when the interview was ended my companion naively
expressed his

The guidance of the interview was left to me. I began at once. I wanted
to know how far
the proposals which Mr Bullitt took to the Conference at Paris still held
good. Lenin
replied that they still held good, with such modifications as the
changing military situation
might indicate. Later he added that in the agreement with Bullitt it had
been stated that
the changing military situation might bring in alterations. Continuing,
he said that Bullitt
was unable to understand the strength of British and American capitalism,
but that if
Bullitt were President of the United States peace would soon be made.

Then I took up again the thread by asking what was the attitude of the
Soviet Republic
to the small nations who had split off the Russian Empire and had
proclaimed their

He replied that Finland's independence had been recognised in November,
1917; that he
(Lenin) had personally handed to Swinhufrod, then head of the Finnish
Republic, the
paper on which this recognition was officially stated; that the Soviet
Republic had
announced some time previously that no soldiers of the Soviet Republic
would cross the
frontier with arms in their hands; that the Soviet Republic had decided
to create a
neutral strip or zone between their territory and Esthonia, and would
declare this
publicly; that it was their principle to recognise the independence of
all small nations, and
that finally they had just recognised the independence of the Bashkir
Republic - and, he
added, the Bashkir are a weak and backward people.


For the third time I took up the questioning, asking what guarantees
could be offered
against official propaganda among the Western peoples, if by any chance
relations with
the Soviet Republic were opened. His reply was that they had declared to
Bullitt that
they were ready to sign an agreement not to make official propaganda. As
a Government
they were ready to  undertake that no official propaganda should take
place. If private
persons undertook propaganda they would do it at their own risk and be
amenable to the
laws of the country in which they acted. Russia has no laws, he said,
against propaganda
by British people. England has such laws; therefore Russia is the more
They would permit, he said, The British, or French, or American
Government to carry
out propaganda of their own. He cried out against the Defence of the
Realm Act, and,
as for freedom of the press in France, he declared that he had just been
reading Henri
Barbusse's novel "Clarte" in which there were two censored  patches.
"They censor novels
in free, democratic France?"

I asked if he had any general statement to make, upon which he replied
that the most
important thing for him to say was that the Soviet system is the best,
and that English
workers and agricultural labourers would accept it if they knew it. He
hoped that after
peace the British Government would not prohibit the publication of the
Constitution. That, morally, the Soviet system is even now victorious,
and that the [proof
of this statement is seen in the persecution of Soviet literature in
free, democratic

My allotted time had expired, and, knowing that he was needed elsewhere,
I rose and
thanked him, and making my way back though Council Chamber and clerks'
room to the
stair and courtyard, where were the young Russian guards, I picked up my
droshky and
drove back to my room to think over my meeting with Vladimir Ulianoff.

[A new photograph of Lenin, taken in the courtyard of the Kremlin, was
brought back
by Mr. Goode, and appears on another page.]


In the account of his mission in Soviet Russia which Mr Bullitt gave to
the Senate
Committee on Foreign Relations, he says that he received a note from Mr.
Kerr, Mr.
Lloyd George's confidential secretary, giving the conditions upon which,
in Mr. Kerr's
opinion, peace could be concluded with the Bolsheviks. He took these with
him to
Moscow and received from the Bolshevik Government a "projected peace
which the Bolsheviks were prepared on their part to accept if it should
be put forward
formally by the Allies. This "peace proposal" may be summarised as

1.    All the Governments formed within the territory of the old Russian
Empire to
keep full power over the territories occupied by them until the
inhabitants should declare
the form of Government preferred by them.

2.    None of such Governments to overthrow another by force.

3.    The blockade of Russia to be raised.

4.    Re-establishment of commercial relations.

5.    All produce existing or received in Russia to be accessible to all
classes of the
population, without any distinction.

6.    All the above Russian Governments to grant full and complete
amnesty to
political opponents, soldiers included.

7.    The Allied troops to evacuate Russia.

8.    Simultaneous reduction of the Soviet and anti-Soviet armies to
peace footing.

9.    All the above Russian Governments to recognise, jointly, the
financial obligations
of the former Russian Empire.

10.   Freedom of residence and movement of all Russian subjects over all
parts of

11.   Repatriation of all prisoners of war.

Mr Bullitt said that the Soviet Government wished to add a further clause
to these terms,

      The Soviet Government is most anxious to have a semi-official
guaranty from the
American and British Governments that they will do their utmost to see to
it that France
lives up to the conditions of the Armistice.

Mr Bullitt, however, says that he refused to embody this clause in his
final document.

jplant at

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